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Four ways to attract a first-time buyer

Dejan Djordjevic figures years of declining home prices make this fall a great time to find a good deal on his first home.

“The low prices are certainly a draw,” said Djordjevic, a 25-year-old sales assistant who wants to buy a loft-style condo in Boston or East Cambridge.

Djordjevic is one of thousands of first-time home buyers who are looking for deals this fall as real estate’s key autumn-selling season gets under way.

After all, prices have fallen, mortgage rates are low and first-time buyers who close by Dec. 1 can qualify for up to $8,000 in special federal tax credits.

Still, brokers warn that selling any home remains challenging in today’s market.

Here are four ways to make properties appeal to first-time purchasers this fall:

Maintain and stage. A well-cared-for property will stand out from all of the vacant or foreclosed properties that are on the market these days.

“If someone is living there, the landscaping is not dead – there is warmth in the home,” said Chuck Whitehead, a California real estate agent. “It’s all about the emotion, of (giving buyers) the ability to see what they can have.”

A 2008 Coldwell Banker survey found that 81 percent of agents think move-in condition is “very important” to their first-time-buyers. By contrast, just 7 percent said first-time purchasers want inexpensive “fixer-uppers.”

“First-time buyers are skeptical of buying homes that need improvement,” ForSaleByOwner.com’s Eric Mangan said. “Sellers (must) make sure that their home showcases very well.”

Experts recommend maximizing your property’s appeal to first-time buyers by adding fresh paint, minimizing clutter and eliminating any unpleasant odors.

“You have to do everything reasonably in your means to make the place attractive: painting, clean-up, touch-up, trash removal – everything,” said Djordjevic’s agent, Dave Gaviglio of Just In Boston Properties.

Offer to pay closing costs. There’s a good chance that buyers in today’s soft market will expect sellers to pay some or all of a deal’s closing costs.

So, Florida real-estate agent Heather Joubran recommends being proactive, touting closing-cost assistance right in your home’s listing sheet and other marketing materials. Another good idea: Paying “points” to bring the buyer’s mortgage rate down.

Throw in a home warranty. Most first-time buyers currently rent, which means they’re used to simply calling landlords whenever maintenance problems arise.

To help these house hunters transition to home ownership, offer to buy a purchaser a “home warranty” that covers your property’s major systems.

Don’t snub low offers. House hunters know that real estate is hurting, so they’re being very aggressive when bidding on homes – sometimes too aggressive.

However, experts say sellers in today’s slow market shouldn’t automatically scoff at lowball offers.

After all, someone who likes your home enough to bid on it is probably a person you can negotiate with.

“My rule of thumb is that every offer deserves a counteroffer,” Joubran said. “At least counter them back – it gets the conversation going.”